Safe flea control, cont.

30 09 2008

Below the body copy is a list with a few more links on (un)safe flea control, some of which I accessed previously, others, only tonight. Good info.

To repeat, AVOID organophosphates such as tetrachlorvinphos, as well as those chems I listed in the previous post. It seems as if many sites agree that the chemicals in many of the monthly topical or oral treatments are pretty safe, and the IGRs are very safe. A number of the sites listed above and yesterday offer comparisons of the various treatments, so make sure to consider what would work best for your animal. As mentioned, I went with Advantage (combined with Zodiac Spot-On) because it seemed the best bet for my old cats, but some might prefer to deliver the medicine by pill, or simply prefer Frontline or Bio-Spot.

Oh, and I neglected to mention the product with the tetrachlorvinphos: It was a Hartz spray (I don’t remember exactly which one, because I returned it to MegaPetStore.) Bad Hartz! Very bad Hartz!

Anyway, the combo of imidacloprid to kill the adult fleas and methoprene to zap the eggs seems to be the ticket: cats are still flea-free, and while their necks were greasy for a few days, that seems to be dissipating. I do notice a slight odor on Skinny Cat; she doesn’t reek, but if her neck nears my nose, I smell a distinct, slightly piney-mothball aroma.

Not that I’m complaining—anything is better than bugs. We’ll all just have to put up with greasy necks and that aroma for the neck few months. Totally worth it.

One caution, however, about the spray (containing a 0.5% concentration of permethrin, along with a low dose of methoprene): I may have to discontinue use of this, or find something else. Although I wore gloves while spraying the shit out of everything, waited for everything to dry, and covered the chairs & mattress with laundered seat covers and sheets, I think some of got into my skin: My hands are tingly with a slight burning sensation. Nothing awful, but it is enough to be noticeable.

Then again, it could also be the methoprene—which could mean I was exposed through the topical treatment. That would suck, since the methoprene is key to killing the next generation(s) of fleas. If I desist from spraying next month, but use the topical Zodiac along with the Advantage, I can at least figure out if the permethrin is the problem. If not, well, I wasn’t planning to use the Zodiac Spot-On beyond next month (tho’ I’ll be continuing with the Advantage at least through 3 months, and perhaps 6). So. I’ll see.

I have to say, regardless, I hope never to have to think about this again.

Anyhoo, here are a few more flea & flea-i-cide related links, mainly concerning the risks of various pesticides (and hey, go university extension services!):

UC-Davis, Flea Management guidelines:

Texas Agricultural Extension, Controlling Fleas (gives info on various pesticides, but doesn’t state that some are toxic to cats & dogs):

University of Nebraska Lincoln/UNL Extension, Integrated Flea Control:

Flea Away, brief on flea pesticides:

Fleas and Ticks (I think this is where I got the list, posted yesterday, of bad chemicals; scroll down or link to ‘Toxicities’):

Humane Society of the US, What you should know about flea and tick products:

Here’s a chart I just found tonight, put out by Greenpaws (in pdf):

Natural Resources Defense Council (link in previous post):

Ohio State Extension fact sheet on fleas (good comparisons of treatments, what is the active ingredient, how applied, how long lasts, etc):

EPA info on flea pesticides:

My dog has. . .

29 09 2008


Jesus Christ, my cats had fleas! Fleas! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Yes, I lost my mind the moment I examined Fat Cat and found a little nasty scuttling into her fur.


How did they (yep, Skinny Cat, too) get fleas! They’ve NEVER had fleas, or worms, or any of the assortment of nasties which afflict housepets. And they’re indoor cats! INDOOR!. . . .

Except, hm, I have been letting them outside. Skinny Cat would squeeze between the security bars of the window leading into the backyard, to chew on the weeds and sit in the sun, and I’d let both of them hang out with me out front as I cooled down from a run, or read on the stoop. And there are plenty of cats and dogs and outdoor critters in the neighborhood, so, you know, I shouldn’t have been so shocked.

But I was. Shocked and, frankly, disgusted. Really. I’ve already mentioned my genocidal tendencies when it comes to (indoor) bugs, but to see them strolling their way through Fat Cat’s fur set off a primal loathing steeped so thickly in moral panic that I had to remind myself (not terribly successfully) that this was hardly an earth-shaking event.

Still. I found the little bastards at night—long after everything was closed—which meant I could do, basically, nothing.

Except get on the computer and find out what the hell to do. So I searched on ‘cats fleas’, and found this site and this one (it’s not letting me link here; see below: and a bunch of others, and learned more than I cared to about the biology of fleas, and what needs to be done to get rid of them. So I clicked through on one of the sites to National Pet Pharmacy and ordered a six-month supply of Advantage (one each for Skinny and Fat Cat), and sat back, completely freaked out. (This place didn’t help: ‘Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days. Just think of the tens of thousands of the little rascals that could result when conditions are optimal!’ Thanks a fucking lot!)

I did not sleep well that night.

The next day I zipped over to MegaPetStore and bought a flea comb and a spray, which I figured I would use until the kitty drugs arrived. Now, a number of the sites had mentioned that IGRs, or insect growth regulators, are key to stopping a parasite attack, especially since a number of the topical monthly treatments (such as Advantage) kill only adult fleas; IGRs kill off the eggs and pupae. So I thought, hey, any products should list IGRs. Only they don’t. They do list active ingredients, but I neglected to read carefully the info on what was what, and, more importantly, what to avoid. I looked at the various products, then grabbed one which included methoprene and tetrachlorvinphos. Okey-doke, I thought.

Wrong thought. When I got home I fired up the computer and checked out what, exactly, these two ‘active ingredients’ are. Methoprene: an IGR. Excellent! Tetrachlorvinphos. . . uh oh. An organophosphate (OP), tetrachlorvinphos is, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Executive Summary on Poisons on Pets, one of seven of a poisonous group of OP insecticides that were, as of the NRDC’s report, still on the market. (Another site, from Sept 08, noted that most of the other OPs had been phased out, but tetra. was still on the market.) Poison. Dammit.

I considered using the spray, anyway, but snapped out of it: the point is to help my cats, not hurt them. And while it’s not like I expected flea-icides to be candy, I did recognize that there were different levels of risk. Some sites were fairly laid back regarding fleas—heeeyyy, bathe your pet, vacuum, shake some powder on ’em, and all’s good—but, as is obvious, ‘laid-back’ and ‘fleas’ really don’t go together for me. And I have to admit that I was so caught up in my own disgust—Ewwww! what if they get on ME? Ewwwww!—that it took a while to get my focus back on the cats. Fleas don’t really like humans, and they do like cats: they were the ones suffering.

So I left the poison capped, got some soapy water, and pulled the comb through their hair, plunging it into the water to drown the nasty bastards. (And drowning does work, unlike, say, trying to crush them. I did manage to kill one with a tweezers, but, man, even after being squeezed tight, I swore I saw it move. And trying to get them beneath something to crush is a trial, too: those little nasties really can jump!) Fat Cat suffered through this, and kept giving me looks like Why do you hate me? I only saw one adult flea on Skinny Cat (tho’ she did have the tell-tale ‘flea-dirt’, i.e., dried blood), but she protested mightily against the comb and inspections. Bad sleep, night two.

The next morning I checked my e-mail and noted that the pharmacy had sent out the drugs, and they were due to arrive at Job3 that day. Yay! Too bad I was working at Job1 rather than Job3 that day, and wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get into Job3’s building after hours. Thankfully, S. was willing to look out for the package for me (thanks S! Lifesaver!), and I managed to dash over during my lunch hour.

Also, I returned to MegaPetStore with a list of good and bad chemicals in hand. I can’t find the exact links, but I do still have my handwritten notes on okay & bad chems (if I find the links, I’ll post them later) [here’s one site that lists them, tho’ I can’t remember if this is the one I used; link or scroll down to ‘toxicities’]:


carbaryl, chlorpyritos, diazinon, dichloros, dioxathion, lindane, malathion, naled, phenothrin, phosmet, propoxor, pyrethrin, ronnel, tetrachlorvinphos (n.b.: Some of the spelling may be a letter off. My handwriting is, um, bad.)


methoprene, lufenuron, fipronil, pyriproxfen, d-limonene (natural), imidacloprid

Methoprene and pyriproxfen are both IGRs, which can be used in conjunction with imidacloprid (the active ingredient in Advantage & Advocate; I don’t know if it’s okay with fipronil (used in Frontline).

Given the age of my cats, Advantage seemed the best choice (some of the treatments aren’t so great for kittens, ill, or geriatric cats); however, since the imidacloprid would kill only the adult fleas, I combined it with Zodiac Spot On (which only active ingredient is methoprene 3.6%). I squeezed the Zodiac and then the Advantage on to the back of Fat and Skinny Cats’ necks, then got to work spraying down every damned porous surface with Zodiac Carpet & Upholstery spray (active ingredients: methoprene .09% & permethrin* 0.5%, i.e., an egg-and-pupae killer combined with an adult killer). Then I grabbed everything that could be laundered and hauled it to the laundromat, where I washed everything in HOT water, and dried it all to hell.

(*Permethrin is apparently used safely in high concentrations (45-60%) in some dog treatments, but at such levels are deadly for cats.  Concentrations of less than 1% .1% are apparently okay for use on cats, [update: the link is broken, so I’m going by what Jeff wrote] but I didn’t use the spray on the cats: I used it on furniture, pillows, and drapes, and, as per instructions on the can, kept my cats off of everything until the spray dried.)

The cats were a bit punky that night and the next day, but are fine today, two days after treatment. I’ll keep up with the combo-treatment for the next few months, as well as the spraying, but this is more precautionary than anything: Careful and frequent fur inspections have yielded no fleas, and the cats aren’t scratching. Success—thus far.

We are all sleeping better.

One more thing. I was flipped out about this, and when I used the phrase ‘moral panic’, above, I wasn’t kidding. Yeah, it sounds over the top, but so was my reaction. This infestation seemed shameful, something that shouldn’t have happened, something I should have known better than to have allowed. What kind of unclean person lets fleas into her home?

I couldn’t talk about it with my friends, referring only to a ‘situation’ with my cats, and mentioning ‘medicine’ to treat an unspecified ‘issue’. I was grossed out; wouldn’t my friends be similarly appalled?

Nevermind that fleas are common as hell, that I’ve known other pet owners discuss their various cats’ and dogs’ parasites (fleas, ticks, worms), and thought, Yeah, that happens; hell, I’ve even removed ticks from others and myself. And people get worms, scabies, and other parasites, and it’s a health, not a moral, issue. So when I said my cats were sick, I wasn’t lying.

But I wasn’t telling the truth, either, because I was using ‘sick’ as a euphemism for ‘infested’. ‘Sick’ is worthy of sympathy and attention; ‘infested’ is bad, disgusting, to be hidden and eradicated. Had the cats been afflicted with an internal parasite, I probably would have responded as if to a health issue. But fleas! Nope. My bug-a-phobia, combined with my mini-moral panic, led me to keep my mouth shut—at least until I could state the problem had been dealt with. (See! Clean! Nothing to worry about!)

Sigh. I don’t like the reaction, but there it is. At least I wasn’t so frenzied that I couldn’t remember that it was the cats who were really the issue. They are apparently flea-free, and seem to have weathered the first month of their treatments.

And we’re all feeling better about that.

(Some) sites cited (I’ll try to get all the sites on the chemicals, and to make sure the links work, tomorrow):, ‘Don’t Flee the Flea’, Franny Syufy, (also some click-throughs on links at her site)

Cat Fanciers’ Association, Cats and Flea Control Products,

Feline Advisory Bureau (FABCats), Tackling fleas on cats,

Pawprints and Purrs, Inc, Flea Control,

The Pet Center, Fleas on Dogs and Cats,

Plenty Magazine,

Takedown! Takedown—two points!

26 09 2008

Some seriously unhappy things happening with the cats. It will be fixed, but in the meantime, grrrrrr.

So I was reading Chantal Mouffe’s The Return of the Political, and I thought, Hm, she might be able to help, after all. She is of the agoniste school of democratic theorists, that is, among those who believe that politics is less about deliberation (Guttmann & Thompson) or ideal speech situations (Habermas) than about plurality, conflict, and constant risks and possibilities of democratic engagement. Jeffrey Isaac has written cogently on this (Democracy in Dark Times), as has Judith Butler, albeit somewhat less cogently (Precarious Life). Arendt fits here, I think, as does Vattimo. (And not-so-far in the background, as Mouffe points out, is Carl Schmitt. Brrr.)

Blah blah, enough with the name dropping: how does it help? Because it reminds me that I’ve been writing as if Lucretia’s comment signalled some kind of crisis in democratic thinking. And it does—of liberal democratic theory. (n.b.: Mouffe does not herself reject liberal democracy, just the consensus modes dominant within it.)There’s a lot worth exploring in liberal democratic theory, but Mouffe reminds me there’s more to democratic theory than liberalism, and, by extension, more than ‘respect’ amongst political actors.  I think I was headed back in that direction anyway, but having her scowl at me and point the way was useful. (I’m being only a little melodramatic: she’s staring straight at the camera—and frowning—in her publicity shot.)

Anyway, I don’t know that Lucretia was really asking about radical democratic theory, but I think that’s the place to find a decent response to her initial question. Mouffe notes that ‘Once we accept the necessity of the political and the impossibility of a world without antagonism, what needs to be envisaged is how it is possible under those conditions to create or maintain a pluralistic democratic order. . . . It requires that, within the context of the political community, the opponent should be considered not as an enemy to be destroyed but as an adversary whose existence is legitimate and must be tolerated. We will fight against his ideas but we will not question his right to defend them.’ [emph in the original, p. 4]. Yes. Very ‘disagree-but-defend-your-right-to-the-death.’

In other words, the lack of respect is not a crisis, is not necessarily even a problem. If there is to be conflict, there the question is how to live with it. Some might seek to suppress it, others to deliberate it away; the agonistes, however, note that it is simply a condition of human existence, and to rid ourselves of conflict is to rid ourselves of. . . us. Thus, while consensus-liberal theorists (and I included the deliberatives among this large and varied group) consider tolerance too thin a mat on which to roll around with our problems, Mouffe says, pfft, it’s enough. The point is not to avoid bruises; the point is to continue the wrestling, i.e., to continue the politics.

There are many worse things than the hurt or anger which arise out of political disagreement. What, after all, are the alternatives to [a democratic] politics?


23 09 2008

Still workin’ on the question Lucretia asked, regarding respect/no respect.

Still workin’ on Rawls, for that matter. I paused to re-read Mary Ann Glendon’s Rights Talk, and I’m taking Chantal Mouffe’s The Return of the Political to Jobs1&2 tomorrow, but I don’t think any of these folk are going to get me where I need to go.

Why? The focus on procedure. ‘Here is how you set up a system of justice in a liberal society’ (Rawls); ‘we need to more nuanced understanding of rights vis-a-vis other values’ (Glendon). Neither is wrong, but neither gets to the guts of Lucretia’s question:

How do you deal with someone who can’t deal with you? That is, how do you deal with someone who won’t accept that you’re someone else? Who insists that you respect her but she won’t respect you? (I suppose the flip side of this question would be: How do you deal with someone who persists in error? Hm. More on that later?)

This is where I ended, last time (in the Ain’t no love post): I think I’m still missing a piece of a response to Lucretia. I’ve talked about a kind of constitutional or generic respect for persons, and about intimates, but what about those strangers or acquaintances with whom we interact in the social sphere? More acutely, what about those demands from citizens for respect for their views? Not generic persons, not friends, but fellow-travellers in the polity, in the social sphere? How do we meet demands for respect for mutually-exclusive beliefs? Ah. I thought I captured this in the idea of creating space against an overlord, but I didn’t: this is how we treat one another within that space. . . .It may be a matter of reiterating respect for you, but signalling disagreement with your beliefs. But I don’t think that’s sufficient, either.

It’s insufficient, I think, because respect is being overworked: I’m trying to stretch it to cover all of these different situations and levels, and it’s shredding. I gotta let it go. Yes, keep it at the procedural and constitutional levels, and even, perhaps, have it frame discussions, as a minimal condition for that discussion, but as to content: done.

This means, of course, that one may in fact not respect the other person’s views and, as a consequence, not respect the other person. That sounds harsh—it is harsh—but it gets at how we actually do respond to one another.

I think there’s a parallel to this in my reaction to ‘love-the-sinner/hate-the-sin’ argument: it seems a cop-out to pronounce one’s love even as one proclaims hatred for what the loved one does. It sounds simple to separate out who you are from what you do, but that sound is wrong. (I’ve gone too far in the other direction, hoping that doing could overcome being, but that’s another story.) We are beings who do, so even when it is possible to make such a separation, it’s rarely simple to, erm, do so.

Consider how you respond to someone who you truly do love who does something awful. Well, maybe just lousy: Your partner is arrested for drunk driving, say. You love this person, but you’re also angry that he behaved recklessly toward both himself and others. So what do you do with this love and anger? It depends: on you, on him, on his behavior after the arrest, whether he’s done this before, whether you’ve done this before, . . . Not simple, in other words. Even if you do get past it, you still have to get past it.

Now, to ratchet up the complications, consider behavior which is more intimately connected to being, say, sexuality (this is where the whole love/hate/sinner/sin missile often gets deployed). You’re gay or bisexual or ambisexual or just plain sexual. Sex is something you do, but your sexuality is also a part of who you are. Furthermore, you like both the act of sex and your sexuality generally, and are not inclined to see it as something in need of either fixing or redemption. If someone says she loves you but not what you do, do you feel particularly loved? Do you think this person even sees you?

This can be flipped around with regard to respect: If you demand that I respect you just for having an opinion, how likely is it that I’ll actually respect the content of that opinion? How much do you think I’ll respect you? In each case, the formula gets in the way of the person, and in so doing, cheapens both respect and love.

Thus, in cutting back on respect-talk, we may actually get to—have to—deal with one another as human beings. By allowing each other the, hmm, courtesy? understanding? recognition? that who we are and what we say and how we act matters, we may allow for a fuller sense of the other.

This fuller sense, of course, may only be possible in particular circumstances: namely, in a free society in which one person does not have authority over or able to invoke power structures against another. And there are other objections to this conclusion, as well, including that ‘may allow’ is a damned slender reed, and that I, too, am eliding content in favor of process—this time of understanding rather than respect.

It’s late, so I can’t offer a full defense, but I want to get this down before I lose these thoughts: One, yeah, ‘may allow’ ain’t much, but maybe that’s all we’ve got. In other words, Arendt’s admonitions on the frailty of human [political] affairs may be spot on. Two, I’m trying to incorporate content into the conversation, and to recognize when content overwhelms or matters more than conversation.

Sketchy, I know. But I think there’s something here.

Bitter pill

22 09 2008

Ahhh, Sunday. My one day off. I used to dislike Sundays—the day before Monday—but now that it is the only I can spend the day in glorious indolence, I rather like it.

I do tend to hate the lead-up to a dreaded phenomenon almost as much as the phenomenon itself—sometimes more so. So, while agreeing with the Boomtown Rats’s general sentiments on Monday, I have held Monday against Sunday. Similarly, dreading hot weather, I hold summer against spring.

A neighbor to this sensibility is the desire to get the worst or unavoidable parts of an activity out of the way, first. Thus, when painting, I do the trim work first, then just let it roll over the walls. When moving, I grab all of the stuff out of the closets and cupboards, first, so that I’m not surprised by extra work at the back end. Hell, even as a high schooler and undergrad, I overloaded my early years so as to ensure flexibility later. (It was worth it: on alternating Fridays in high school I had more study halls than classes.)

Unfortunately, this determination only goes so far. In fact, if I don’t do dreaded tasks early, I may not do them at all, or only do them embarassingly or inconveniently late. I can drag my ass on the most mundane of to-dos: changing addresses, making doctors’ appointments, calling in a refill, renewing my driver’s license (really gotta get on that), sending letters to literary agents (really really gotta get on that). Done early: no big deal. Done late: HUUUUGE deal.

This is not mere procrastination (as with, say, the sixty papers sitting on top of my filing cabinet), but a kind of sulky refusal to deal with my life. ‘I don wanna’. Please. I’m too damned many years old to be acting like this. If I can manage to deal with ordinary procrastination (that is, of the sort which involves my wage-work) and get stuff done, why can’t I puncture the inflated meaning attached to the ordinary tasks of life? Because that is the problem: By my inaction, I turn these prosaic matters into something operatic.

God. I remember when my neuroses would poke me into getting shit done. Even they’ve given up.

Similar promises

19 09 2008

Okay, here’s a link to the Judith Thomson piece I mentioned earlier:,Fall02/thomson.htm

I haven’t re-read the piece, but there it is. You could probably find it in other formats—the piece was originally published in 1971—simply by searching ‘Judith Jarvis Thomson’ or ‘A Defense of Abortion’. Anyway. Have at it.

The computer is now 4 days old, and I’m mostly happy with it. I did have to ditch my old WordPerfect software: too old. So I’ve downloaded a 30-day trial version of WPX4 (just released!) while waiting for the software to arrive.

I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I regularly opine that ‘brand loyalty is for suckers’, but here I am chasing after this software (and, for that matter, after a particular pair of Doc Martens, which I CANNOT find in my size) when Microsoft Word is snugly installed in my operating system. Why bother?

Well, I guess I’ll have to nuance my way past my snark. See, I really do think brand loyalty makes no sense: corporations don’t care about you, they care about money. If they can make money by creating things you want, fine. If they can make more money creating other things, that’s what they’ll do. This isn’t personal, ; this is capitalism. So the appropriate response to the self-interested behavior of corporations is one’s own self-interest: I will buy your product if it suits me, or another corporation’s product if it suits me better.

Thus, I ended up with my third Dell not because I’m wild about ‘Dell, The Brand!’, but because after a months-long search of reading reviews, checking out different computers’ websites, trekking to stores to test keyboards, and much to-ing and fro-ing about my finances and do-I-REALLY-need-this, I decided Dell suited me best. That had nothing to do with loyalty, and everything to do with my wants.

But WordPerfect, hmmm, I do have a soft spot for it. I started with it in grad school, when the computers in the pol sci computer lab still had the blue screens with the off-white text. I pirated a copy from that lab, then later bought my own upgrade. I like how it works, and what I can do with it. C. pointed out that a couple of the features I mentioned I like I could also get with Word, but it always seemed like more of a hassle.

Yeah, it’s an habitual preference (which, admittedly, may have a not-minor role in loyalty) as opposed to obvious WP superiority, but it’s not only that. I wrote my dissertation and two novels using WP, and NOT ONCE did it crash or lose my work. NEVER. And I was paranoid about losing work: chapters of my dissertation are scattered repeatedly across numerous floppy disks, and I bought an external hard drive years ago as a sop to my fear. But my trusty word processor hung on to my every word, and never booted me out of my thoughts with a pop-up stating ‘WP has encountered a difficulty and must close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.’

Unlike, say, Word. And WP never froze, unlike, say, Word.

So, based on track record, I’m a-goin’ with WP. And if it becomes as unreliable as its ubiquitous counterpart, I’ll look for another word processor.

Is that a kind of loyalty, or just extreme customer diligence? Pfft, maybe a bit of both. Maybe I am a sucker.

All blue

16 09 2008

Picked up the new computer today. After dicking around with Dell and DHL, I just went to the depot and picked up the damned thing myself.

So pretty. So blue. So so so much faster. I can actually watch YouTube clips now!

Now if I can just figure out how to activate the Filemaker and WordPerfect programs I copied from my external hard drive. I have the disks (christ, I THINK they’re cds and not old floppies), but I added various macroses (sp?) and am too lazy to repeat them.

Hm. I’ll figure this out. Hell, I managed to copy all my bookmarks from the first-best browser on the old machine (right before I uninstalled it) to the external hard drive and then to the Sleek Newcomer.

Then again, this sucker has Vista, so who knows what’ll happen.

Still. So pretty. So blue.

Coda to: This woman’s work

15 09 2008

I noted in the previous post my, mm, strong opinions on the legality of abortion. But I didn’t say anything about the morality of abortion.

Is abortion moral? Yeah, I think it is. But I also have a lot more sympathy for the position that it is not moral than I do for the position that it shouldn’t be legal.

I think it’s moral because of the status of the woman. When unexpectedly pregnant, a woman has to decide whether to end or to continue the pregnancy (and if she continues with it, to keep the baby or give her up for adoption). It is a real dilemma, one which requires some hard thinking about her own life, her relationship to the man involved, her relationships to other people in her life, and her understanding of the fetus. Is it a baby? A person? Or just a conceptus, a potential person, but not one yet? It requires moral work to make one’s way through these questions, and to consider how to act amidst uncertainty.

Yeah, I know, there are girls and women who act unthinkingly in terminating their pregnancies, but arguably just as many act unthinkingly in continuing them. That some women (and the people around them) don’t do the moral work doesn’t mean it’s not there to be done.

But what of the fetus? Absent a miscarriage or abortion, it will someday push itself out of the woman to enter the world as a baby. Even in its embryonic stage it is arguably human—if only human tissue rather than human being. What about its. . . rights isn’t the right word. . . what about its status? What of the possibility that it is already a human being?

Judith Thompson had one reply to this question, in her famous example of the violinist whose life would end were he not attached to another person. (It’s been a long time since I read the piece—sorry I can’t remember the particulars. And I’ll see if I can find a link to the piece online.) She concluded that even if the violinist would die if you detached him from you, you still had the right to do so.

It’s an interesting piece, but I don’t know that it gets at all the complexities of abortion. Hm. What I mean is, I don’t think that all those who talk about a ‘right to life’ are really into rights talk. I think it’s about something deeper, or at least other, than rights. I think, for many, it is about a protectiveness toward the fetus/baby, and about a belief that one ought to sacrifice oneself on behalf of another vulnerable being.

These are not unworthy sentiments (and I’ll skip for the moment any legislative ramifications—we’re talking about morality, not politics—as well as those worms who are afraid of and want to control or punish women’s sexuality), and ought not be dismissed without deeper consideration.

Abortion is a moral issue. Those of us who believe such a choice ought to be left to the woman need to do a better job of articulating that morality.

This woman’s work

15 09 2008

A 23-year-old woman has been blogging about her decision to get an abortion at Her site, titled ‘What to Expect When You’re Aborting’, includes a line near the top that says ‘I’m 23. I’m knocked up. And I don’t want to keep it. You can fuck yourself, Judd Apatow.’

She notes in her first posting, from August 20,

I’m trying to get some advice and info that isn’t off a bulletin board style fact sheet. When I google “abortion blog” —because we all know blogs are a great repository for facts and rationality— i get these terrifying pro-life, abortion regret websites. One is called ” silent rain”. UGHHHHH.


Precious, silver-tongued, knocked up 16 year olds where are you??

I found this site through either Broadsheet or Feministing, and have been reading it for the past few weeks or so. Like the commentators and the blogger herself has noted, it seems really odd that there isn’t more out there in the cyberworld about the experience.

What do I think about the blog? First, the requisite disclaimer: I am totally-utterly-completely-militantly pro-choice. I don’t like parental notification laws, I don’t like waiting periods, I don’t like legislatively-mandated ‘informational lectures’ (that’s you, South Dakota)—I don’t like any more legislative or regulatory conditions attached to abortion than would be attached to any other medical procedure. This is nobody else’s damned business, legally speaking.

And I really do believe all that. I’ve been pro-choice for as long as I’ve been menstruating, have argued on behalf of a woman’s right since I was a teenaged feminist, and have heard the stories of more than one friend who’s undergone the procedure.

I, however, have never had an abortion, never been pregnant. And while I think that I probably would have terminated the pregnancy had I ever gotten knocked up, I don’t know, for sure. I think it’s one thing to have an opinion about an issue, and quite another to have lived through it.

So I’m surprised by my ambivalence toward this blog. I truly don’t know what it’s like to be 23 and unhappily pregnant, and am glad that she’s willing to talk about the issue. (How many women have had abortions? How many talk about their abortions? Not nearly as many as have had them.) But, I don’t know, the tone seems off. Glib. Narcissistic?

AAARRRGH! What the hell’s up with that reaction? She’s 23! Her body is being taken over by an unwanted intruder and she wants it out! But the process of evacuating her uterus is not an easy one. She considered taking RU-486 before deciding on a surgical abortion, but even though this is a generally safe procedure, it’s still surgery. It’s still a big deal.

So maybe this is less about glibness than bravado. When you’re in the middle of the rapids, you just try to paddle yourself out of them; you don’t have time to wonder about the beauty of the canyon or profundity of a waterway which has been carving its way through the earth for millenia. Nope, you’re just trying not to drown.

And I’m on the bank. Who am I to critique her on her technique or disapprove of her brand of kayak? If I don’t like what I’m seeing/reading, I can leave. This is what she’s going through, and how she’s going through it. It’s not about some PR campaign about the Perfect Candidate for the Perfect Abortion Experience. Because what woman could live up to that?

And why should we have to? We shouldn’t have to be perfect (or, shudder, the Perfect Victim) to ‘deserve’ to make decisions about our bodies. It ought to be enough that we live these bodies.

Enough already!

13 09 2008

Just who the hell is running for president, anyway?

Sarah P. has done what is necessary for the GOPper ticket—sent an electric current into all those social conservatives who had taken McCain’s maverick reputation seriously and thus considered staying home E-Day—so why is anyone not in McCain’s camp continuing to take her seriously?

Yeah yeah yeah, he’s old, she’s new, she could be the NEXT LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD (world world world. . .), but criminy, she’s a VP candidate. The only way she could be the NEXT LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD (world world world. . .) is if the man slotted into her party’s presidential candidacy is elected.

So why aren’t we talking about him?

And for the Obama/Biden camp, here’s the 11 millionth piece of unsolicited advice for you: ignore her. Stop talking about her RIGHTNOW. And in the VP debate, treat her as the adjunct to the McCain that she is: slice through her to stick your knives in him. That’s it.

McCain’s the one standing in the way of an Obama presidency, remember?